Downbeat van Persie seeks Cup lift
Updated: 2014-05-22 06:56
By Agence France-Presse in The Hague (China Daily)
Dutch star aiming to recapture peak form after 'complicated' season
Dutch ace Robin van Persie is counting on the World Cup to act as a cure for a "complicated" season at Manchester United.
"For the first time in my professional career I finished a season without qualifying for a European competition," the 30-year-old striker said on Tuesday.
In his first season at United under Alex Ferguson, van Persie scored 26 league goals as the team secured the English Premier League title.
However, his second season was a disaster as Britain's wealthiest club slumped to its lowest finish since 1990 and new manager David Moyes lasted only 10 months.
"It was a complicated season; nothing worked for us," van Persie said. He had several injuries, culminating in a sprained knee in March that ruled him out for six weeks.
"I was never worried that I could miss the World Cup, but it is true this injury came at really the worst time," he told Dutch media last week.
Brazil might be the last chance for van Persie to claim a title on the international stage. He made his name at Feyenoord and became an icon at Arsenal before his $40 million move to Manchester in 2012,
His reputation is secure in England, where he is the 10th highest scorer in Premier League history with 134 goals.
As one of the most feared strikers in the world - he was the top scorer of any European nation in World Cup qualifying with 11 goals - he is the anchor of the Dutch team.
The Dutch reached the final of the 2010 World Cup, but van Persie and his teammates had a disappointing 2012 European Championship in Ukraine, where the Netherlands crashed out in the group stage.
Van Persie bounced back, though, as coach Louis van Gaal readily admitted.
"He has such talent that I cannot get by without him," the manager said after van Persie scored three goals against Hungary in October 2013 to become the Netherlands' all-time leading scorer.
He has 42 goals in 83 international matches, but while he has regularly shone in friendlies and qualifying for the big tournaments he has yet to really make his mark at World Cup or European Championship finals.
He scored just once, against Cameroon, during the group stage at the 2010 World Cup, and also notched a solitary goal at Euro 2012. He has never scored in the knockout stage of a major tournament.
"I hope that the World Cup will help me to get rid of this label," he told Dutch media.
Van Persie said he has become less selfish as his responsibilities have grown within the team.
He scored a spectacular goal to give the Netherlands a 1-1 draw against Ecuador in a warm-up match last Saturday, controlling the ball on his chest before firing in on the volley.
However, van Persie preferred to give credit to his young teammate Jordy Clasie for the pass that gave him the chance.
His rise in the team has been at the expense of Wesley Sneijder, who lost the captain's armband and who has regularly been a rival within the Dutch squad.
And, according to British media, van Gaal is set to increase his reliance on van Persie by making him Manchester United's captain next season in place of Wayne Rooney.
Robin van Persie scores during the Netherlands'2-0 Group D World Cup qualifying victory over Estonia in Amsterdam in March 2013. Peter Dejong / Associated Press
(China Daily 05/22/2014 page23)